10/08/2015, 00.00
CHINA
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Crackdown on lawyers continues as the party seeks to maintain its grip on power.

A former judge in Wenzhou, who became a lawyer to avoid political interference, fled to the United States. For him, it was impossible to stay. The crackdown “isn’t going to stop in one or two year”. The authorities misuse the law to do what they want.

Washington (AsiaNews) – Zhong Jinhua, a former judge at the Wenzhou Intermediate People's Court in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang who became a lawyer to escape political interference, said the ongoing campaign against lawyers “is unprecedented” and “isn't going to stop in one year or two,"

In view of the situation, he fled last month to the United States along with his family. The decision to leave came after the authorities launched a nationwide police operation against human rights lawyers. About 300 hundreds were held for questioning, and many are still in detention.

Christian lawyer Zhang Kai was detained in the crackdown. With others, he had launched a campaign to stop the removal of crosses in Zhejiang province. In fact, most of those arrested are Christian.

"The majority of lawyers are now living in fear of forced 'chats' with authorities, since they have detained between 200 and 300 lawyers," Zhong told Radio Free Asia. "Such a thing is unprecedented."

"Under such circumstances,” he added, “many voices right across Chinese society have been silenced, as well as human rights defenders,"

According to the Hong Kong-based Chinese Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, since 9 July, at least 288 lawyers, law firm staff, human right activists and family members have been detained by police. Although 255 have been released, the rest remain under some form of surveillance or criminal detention.

Zhong, who in 2012 threatened publicly to resign from the ruling Chinese Communist Party if it did not implement political reforms.

"So-called sensitive cases” had to go through “a sentencing committee and then again [. . .] the party's politics and legal affairs committee," he explained. "This was interference by the executive arm of government, and also by vested interests".

In recent years, he noted, the judiciary in China has been used mostly as a tool to maintain the party's grip on power.

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